I adored my grandfather – my Mum’s dad – in that way that only grandchildren can love their grandparents. An exuberance of love. He shaved with a real razor and used a shaving brush, which he’d tap us on the nose with, as we watched him shave. He smelt of shaving cream and, Grandpa. His favourite Christmas song was ‘The Holly And The Ivy’. When it came onto the radio when we visited my grandparents in Plett at Christmas time, he’d turn it up to blaring levels.
My great grandfather – that grandpa’s father-in-law – was the Professor of Music at Wits many, many years ago. He wrote an opera called ‘The Willow Pattern’, amongst other things, and he conducted orchestras. My mother played the flute, my sister the clarinet. There is music in my genes.
I learnt to play the recorder when I was five. Very badly at first, but by the time I was twelve, I was – let’s be kind – an okay player. After that, I admitted defeat, and listened, instead, to other people play. I’d like to blame my lack of talent on my teachers – first a bitterly strict and really-rather-nasty nun and then an equally strict and still really-rather-nasty German woman. It would be unfair to blame them, though… I fear that the musical genes just do not run that thickly in my veins.
This, however, did not stop me, aged eight, from practicing and practicing ‘The Holly And The Ivy’. The year I learnt it, I couldn’t wait to go to the seaside, to my Granny and Grandpa, my recorder carefully packed in my suitcase. Let’s be honest, I could never wait to go to the seaside, but that year even more so.
Our grandparents lived on a plot outside Plett, in a magical house with a fireplace and a garden that led to wild bush with a forest and a river and lots of pincushion proteas and Christmas trees. Each year that we were all there for Christmas we’d traipse out with Grandpa – all five cousins and the dogs – and pick one to bring inside and decorate.
That year, though, the first thing I did was settle at Grandpa’s feet and play him his favourite Christmas song, that I’d spent so long learning, and which I’m pretty sure I played really badly. He loved it and I loved him even more for loving it.
I watch my Delicious Nephews with my Dad now – their Grandpa – and see just that same adoration.
We are so lucky to have family.
Happy Christmas y’all.